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An NCAA notice of allegations and the University of Tennessee’s response to the notice revealed that former Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt provided the mother of a Volunteers football player with money in 2020.
According to Mike Wilson of the Knoxville News Sentinel, the notice and response divulged that Pruitt met the player’s mother outside an on-campus football facility in August 2020 and gave the woman either $300 or $400 in a Chick-fil-A bag.
Pruitt admitted to the violation in March 2022 when he told investigators he gave the woman the money because “it was the human thing, the right thing to do.”
Pruitt was fired in January 2021, and Tennessee received the NCAA notice of allegations in July.
The NCAA alleges that Tennessee’s football team committed 18 violations and that the university failed to monitor Pruitt and his coaching staff. Seven of Pruitt’s assistants were also fired in January 2021.
It is alleged that the player in question and his family received a total of $12,707 in impermissible benefits during his recruitment and while he was on the team.
The mother of the player testified to the NCAA enforcement staff under limited immunity in April 2021, saying that Pruitt gave her $3,000 in January 2019 so she could undergo hip surgery, but Pruitt denied the payment.
Pruitt was Tennessee’s head coach from 2018 to 2020, posting a 16-19 record and only one winning season, going 8-5 in 2019.
Following the dismissal of Pruitt, Tennessee hired former UCF head coach Josh Heupel, who led the Vols to a 7-6 record in 2021.
Tennessee had been in the College Football Playoff mix this season, but it fell to 9-2 with a 63-38 loss to South Carolina last week. The Volunteers also lost quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Hendon Hooker for the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL.
The NCAA has yet to levy a punishment against the Tennessee football program, but the university self-imposed a punishment of 12 fewer scholarships in 2021, per Adam Sparks of the Knoxville News Sentinel.